U.S.: New Report Shows DEA Failed To Process Drug Evidence Properly

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz on Thursday released a new report on the federal Drug Enforcement Administration which exposes the DEA's failure to comply with rules for tracking, recording, and processing seized drug evidence.

"Unknown quantities of drugs are being left vulnerable to theft because, among other issues, evidence is not being processed in a timely manner, or in some cases, at all," media relations associate Mikayla Hellwich of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) told Hemp News Friday afternoon.

Nearly 70 percent of drug seizures examined by the Inspector General were placed in "temporary storage" for more than the maximum allowed three days, according to the IG's office, reports Eric Katz at Government Executive. During that period, the drug "exhibits" aren't entered into the tracking system.

Additionally, according to the IG's report, the DEA isn't properly tracking the third-party shipping vendors when they are required to send seized drugs for laboratory testing.

"We believe that the longer a shipment is in transit or missing, the higher the likelihood that theft or tampering of the drug exhibit can occur," the report reads.

In some cases, hapless DEA agents couldn't even locate the documentation relating to the drugs at all. The formal receipt tracking incoming drug seizures is called a DEA-12, and the agency couldn't even find that document in 9 percent of the cases investigated by the IG.

“Gaps in the formal documentation of the chain of custody for drug exhibits can compromise the security of the drugs and jeopardize the government’s ability to use the evidence in court proceedings,” the IG said.

In other instances, incompetent or corrupt DEA agents weren't recording the full information relating to the exhibits. More than half of the "reports of investigation," or DEA-6 forms, which the auditors examined didn't even list the total weight of the drugs seized.

If the drugs were subsequently tampered with, DEA officials would have absolutely no way of knowing about it -- which virtually guarantees that someone is tampering. About one of every 10 forms didn't list the witness of the seizure, a crucial detail when forming a case.

The requirements to document details like weight and witnesses ensure “the integrity of the exhibit for prosecution, minimize suspicions regarding the theft or loss of drugs during the seizure process and provide a benchmark for future weight calculations,” the IG said.

More than three in 10 of the "reports of drug property collected, purchased or seized" weren't completed in the required time period, while an additional 9 percent never even recorded that the drugs were moved to temporary storage.

The DEA half-heartedly agreed to address all nine recommendations made by the Inspector General's office, no doubt whilst winking at each other over the tops of their cubicle walls and conducting business as usual, just a little more sneakily.

Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP